I Spy Someone making a difference.
I Spy – Senior dispatcher Tammy Blouseby Derrick Bracey
Have you ever gotten off the phone with a faceless operator and felt like you just spoke to a rude robot that could care less about your wellbeing? It seems the phone lines are full of people who don’t want to be on phones. Coastal Carolina University’s senior dispatcher Tammy Blouse isn’t one of those people. Instead, Blouse is assertive and exudes calm. Even over the phone, you can sense she’s smiling. She makes you feel like you’ve come to the right place for help. She makes you feel like everything is going to be all right.
“No matter the situation, whether it’s calm or hectic, Tammy handles it with a smile and a can-do attitude,” says Derrick Bratcher, communications/dispatch supervisor and Blouse’s boss. “She has the best work ethic of anyone I know. She stays late, comes in on her day off. She does whatever it takes to get the job done.”
Blouse has worked in CCU’s Public Safety Department for the last five years, since moving to Carolina Forest from Hanover, Pa. She has two daughters in their 20s, Ciera and Carinda, and a teenage son, Caleb. Six months ago, she welcomed her first granddaughter, Isabella. And her second granddaughter, Malaya, was just born on July 22. Carinda, Isabella and Caleb all live with Blouse.
On top of being CCU’s go-to dispatcher, Blouse also helps care for her grandchildren and guides her teenage son. She is also enrolled part-time in the criminal justice program at Horry Georgetown Technical College. “I don’t get much sleep,” Blouse says.
“She’s family-oriented, a great all-around person, and that mindset works for us because we’re different from a traditional police department,” Bratcher says. “We, as dispatchers, have to lean more toward customer service, to provide and interact with our community, to offer services, to give them everything they need, within reason.”
CCU’s public safety department is first focused on keeping the students and staff safe and secure on campus. But Blouse says the dispatchers’ jobs are a combination of “emergencies and convenience.”
Dispatchers work in two-person teams, and there are three shifts a day. These teams monitor phones and cameras all over campus, including the three university housing complexes. All the dispatchers have to be certified in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and AED (automated external defibrillation), as well as with the NCIC (National Crime Index Computer). Depending on the season, they have four to five police officers and five security officers at their disposal.
“During the fall and spring semesters, our most common calls are for key services,” Blouse says. “People are always locking themselves out of their cars, apartments or offices.”
Other common calls include routine traffic stops, students and staff in need of an escort and the more serious issues of medical emergencies, vehicle accidents, disturbances of the peace and fights.
“And some days, we’re just switchboard directors, giving directions and transferring calls,” says Kelly Green, Blouse’s fellow dispatcher since 2012.
In fall and spring, the dispatchers take an average of 300 calls a day. The bulk of those calls are usually received on Blouse’s shift, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. “During our busy season, the phone never stops ringing,” Blouse says.
“A lot of people don’t realize we’re the heart of the communication on not only this campus but the campuses of Georgetown and Myrtle Beach,” Green says. “We take emergency calls, parents’ calls, service calls. We’re constantly redirecting and connecting people, because if we can’t help them, we want to find the right people who can help them.”
Soon this “heart of the communication” will be transplanted to a new dispatch hub, designed to be more efficient and equipped with more cameras. “I’ve seen a lot of changes and growth on this campus in the last five years,” Blouse says. “There are more officers patrolling. Our equipment has gotten better and continues to get better. Each semester, the distress calls have dwindled.”
“The job requires the ability to switch gears, because we’re not only reporting to our officers and security guards, we’re taking care of our students and staff,” says Green. “Tammy is a great dispatcher because she pays attention to the details, the small things. She has patience, listening skills and knowledge of how to help. This job isn’t for everyone. You have to love it. It takes a special person.”
“Or insane,” Bratcher says.
“I do love it,” Blouse says. “It’s different every day and I love the challenge. I love the people I work with. And I love feeling like I am able to help people when they need it.”